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Nick’s Picks | Super Bowl Countdown, Vaccine Chase and Black History Month

Boulevard Brewing Harassment Fallout Continues

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Above image credit: "Kansas City Week in Review" host Nick Haines. (John McGrath | Flatland)

Are the Chiefs the only thing Kansas Citians can talk about right now? 

Have you noticed how your friends and neighbors are now dripping in Chiefs apparel from tip to toe? 

As red and gold flags have replaced the Stars and Stripes outside many homes in the metro, Kansas City is on a countdown to the Super Bowl. 

The big game kicks off Sunday at 5:30 p.m. in Tampa. 

While not everyone is a football fan, few events attract such huge television audiences.

The Chiefs last game against the Buffalo Bills got an 85 share in the Kansas City market. That means that 85% of all the local televisions in use were tuned to the Chiefs game. 

What’s even more remarkable about those numbers is that Kansas City PBS was showing an amazing documentary about the hibernation patterns of the grizzly bear at that time. Go figure!

This Super Bowl matchup featuring Patrick Mahomes against Tom Brady alreadly has attracted the biggest bet in the game’s history. A man in Nevada has bet $2.3 million on Tom Brady pulling it off again.

Anyone willing to wager $2.4 million that he’s wrong?

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates with the Lamar Hunt AFC Championship trophy after the AFC Championship football game against the Tennessee Titans. (David Stluka | AP)

Vaccine Line Jumpers

Expect to hear more this week about vaccine line jumpers. 

A Topeka hospital is making national news after it gave shots to members of its fundraising board. Perhaps that’s still not as bad as a Seattle hospital that offered vaccine appointments to financial donors who were willing to give more than $10,000 to the hospital system.

Across the country, the healthy and wealthy are jumping the queue to get a COVID-19 vaccine amid chaotic rollouts and supply shortages.

In Kansas City, Health Department Director Rex Archer says officials are still operating on the honor system. Documentation isn’t being required but no one is being seen without an appointment. 

Truman Medical Center says it had to turn away a principal and several teachers from the North Kansas City School District who showed up demanding the vaccine.

Also, if you’re wondering when you will get your turn?  That date is sliding once again. 

Dr. Archer is now predicting the vaccine won’t be available to the general population until late May at the earliest.

Vaccine Rollout

The shaky vaccine rollout will continue to dominate the headlines this week. Missouri’s top doctor will appear before a state legislative panel later today in what could be a tense meeting. 

Lawmakers are upset that last week Missouri ranked dead last in COVID-19 vaccinations.

And the problems seem to be worsening.

The Jackson County Health Department says the state did not ship any vaccine to the county last week. 

Zero. 

A spokesperson for Gov. Mike Parson says it’s a supply-and-demand issue.

The Missouri Department of Health says requests for vaccines are running three times higher than the dosage available. 

Kansas Lawmakers Tackle Elections

After a bruising election in which more Americans voted by mail than any time in history, Kansas lawmakers will get to work this week on restricting its use.

While Congress is debating bills to expand mail voting and permit same-day registration, in Topeka lawmakers are weighing a proposal that would prohibit election officials from extending deadlines for the delivery of mail-in ballots. Another bill would make it a criminal offense for a third party to collect an advanced ballot and deliver it to an election office.

Unemployment Fraud in Kansas 

I got a note from our Human Resources department last week that someone was trying to apply for unemployment benefits using my name. If you live in Kansas, it’s become a massive problem and now the state has shut down its unemployment website to try and root out widespread fraud.

Did you know that last week more people filed for unemployment benefits in Kansas than in California, Texas or New York? 

That’s not per capita, that’s total unemployment claims. 

Last week, Kansas also had nearly six times as many people file for unemployment than in Missouri and 24 times as many claims as Nebraska.

It’s estimated that the state of Kansas has paid out upwards of $400 million in fraudulent claims. 

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly blames an antiquated computer system for the problems.

In the meantime, you can’t go online and file claims. The state hopes to relaunch its website with new security upgrades sometime on Tuesday.

Boulevard Fallout

Will the fallout continue this week at Kansas City’s best known brewing company?

A Kansas City Star story claims at least one retailer was planning to pull Boulevard products off their shelves just days after a sexual harassment scandal toppled the company’s CEO and two other top executives.

The sign atop Boulevard Brewing Company
Boulevard Brewing Co. (File photo)

This week, Boulevard founder John McDonald will return to lead the company, which since 2013 has been owned by a Belgian brewing firm.

A top executive from the European parent company is expected to fly into Kansas City this week. 

The brewery’s beer hall has been closed temporarily. But the company’s website seems to indicate it will be open again this week. 

According to the Star, Boulevard planned to brew a beer in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, but those plans are now in limbo. 

Collaborations with other breweries are currently on hold.

Reforming Tax Incentives 

Should Kansas City change the way it doles out tax breaks?

That’s the issue on the agenda at City Hall in Kansas City this week. A City Council committee is expected to hear a proposal to reform the city’s incentive programs.

Kansas City has seven different programs that give companies tax breaks and other incentives. 

The move comes one week after the council unanimously voted to deny tax incentives to any housing developer who doesn’t set aside 20% of their new units for affordable housing. 

Mark Your Calendars

And finally, Black History Month starts today. Check out Kansas City PBS for tons of special programming. Locally, we have a new documentary coming up on the Black Lives Matters murals that were painted on six Kansas City streets last fall. And we’re exploring the 400-year-old story of the black church in America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 

And even though many people are already decorating for Valentine’s Day, we can’t forget that we have another big holiday to celebrate before then.

Yes, it’s Groundhog Day. And it’s this Tuesday. 

Will Punxsutawney Phil give a pandemic-stressed nation some hope?

Like so much else right now, the event is going virtual. 

The world’s most famous groundhog will be streamed live on groundhog.org.

Nick Haines dissects the week’s most impactful local news stories, Fridays at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.

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